Timeout! The Madness of March is upon us…
What is March Madness? Is it an illness that afflicts college students in the month of March, robbing them of their ability to concentrate on anything school-related other than the fact that Spring Break is almost here? Is it some disease that makes you step into some Ohio State Band-worthy formations? Or maybe it’s some Chihuahua sanity-zapping illness from a lost episode of Ren and Stimpy? Maybe that was Space Madness. Wait, what?
March Madness, of course, refers to college basketball’s annual NCAA Tournament time!
Anyone who knows me— even just a little— knows that I am a huge fan of professional basketball. Particularly of one team, but you’d have to see one of my ever-present hats to know which team. That’s not important right now, follow-up with me on that in June. Right now, it’s about the college experience as teams get ready for the “Big Dance,” complete with an annual “Cinderella” team, but instead of glass slippers these guys will be wearing the latest sneaker from the likes of Nike or Air Jordan.
The beauty of the NCAA Tournament is that it has become such an interactive event— much like that of fantasy football— the major difference being that March Madness lasts but for a few short weeks. The tournament is single-elimination, so to borrow a NBA slogan – “It’s win or go home.” There is no more exciting of a contest in all of sports than the NCAA Tournament. And the participants— they all play as if their athletic lives depend on it, because for all intents and purposes it does. All it takes is for some unlikely team to get on a roll at the right time and it could find its way to the NCAA Final Four.
For the uninitiated, the tournament begins with 64 teams (plus two play-in games) and almost each round has been given a catchy nickname. The Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight and of course the Final Four. Each round is rife with fierce competition and intensity that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
There have been many moments that live in NCAA Tournament infamy: the shot by Duke’s Christian Laettner, the coast-to-coast buzzer beater by UCLA’s Tyus Edney, even Arkansas’ own Scotty Thurman hit a few big-time shots. YouTube, it baby!
But the drama on the court is just part of the appeal. The other side is the fan experience. The process of filling out a NCAA bracket is a tradition that some offices hold in higher esteem than the Christmas party. Who wants to go to that anyway?
So what is the appeal of filling out an NCAA tournament bracket for those who aren’t that into sports? You guessed it: Money! It drives people to enter the office pool who don’t know a Wichita State from a Gonzaga.
The online brackets are worth some big money and appeal to the same type of fans who participate in fantasy football, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The honest truth for me, is that I don’t really follow college basketball too closely until it gets closer to tournament time. I’m more of a casual fan of the game, but I have to pay attention when the games mean so much. (Plus I’m doing a little advanced scouting of the players going to the next level.)
There are usually a few players that use a good showing in the tournament to rise in the NBA draft that follows in June. It’s amazing how one or two games can change the opinions of so many people.
Here at UALR, we have a chance for our teams to get and invite to the “big dance” with the SBC tournament winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Here’s hoping that both the men and women bring home the SBC crown and a chance to appear on an even larger stage.
So college basketball, the floor—or technically my TV— is all yours. Let’s see what magic you provide us with this year.